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The Smoke Clears On California Marijuana Legalization As AUMA Takes Center Stage


vote for california marijuana initiativesBy Phillip Smith

After several years of jostling since the defeat of Proposition 19 in 2010, the smoke has cleared in California and it now appears that a single, well-funded marijuana legalization initiative will go before the voters next November. That vehicle is the California Control, Tax, and Regulate Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), backed by Silicon Valley tech billionaire Sean Parker, WeedMaps head Justin Hartfield, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), and a growing cast of state and national players.

The AUMU has sucked all the air out of the room for other proposed initiatives, most notably the measure from the California Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform (ReformCA), which had been widely assumed to the effort around which the state’s various cannabis factions could coalesce.

Instead, more than half of the ReformCA board members have now endorsed the AUMA, including Oaksterdam University founder and Prop 19 organizer Richard Lee, California Cannabis Industry Association director Nate Bradley, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) head Neill Franklin, Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) deputy director Stacia Cosner, and Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap head David Bronner.

That move came earlier this month, after proponents of the AUMA amended their initial proposal to provide safeguards against child use and protections for workers, small businesses, and local governments that also bring it closer in line with Newsom’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy.

“These amendments reflect a collaborative process of public and expert engagement and make an extremely strong measure even stronger,” Dr. Donald O. Lyman, MD, the measure’s lead proponent said in a statement. “This measure now includes even more protections for children, workers, small business, and local governments while ensuring strict prohibitions on marketing to kids and monopoly practices.”

“We have carefully reviewed amendments submitted by the proponents of the AUMA, and we’re convinced it’s time to endorse that initiative and unite everyone behind a single, consensus measure to achieve a legal regulated system, which a majority of voters have consistently said they want,” Bronner said in a statement.

Here’s what the AUMA would do:

Local control. Cities and counties can regulate or totally prohibit commercial marijuana cultivation, processing, sales, and deliveries, but they can’t ban deliveries merely passing through their jurisdiction. They can ban even personal outdoor grows, but not indoor ones.

Personal possession. Adults 21 and over can possess up to an ounce or eight grams of concentrate.

Personal cultivation. Adults can grow up to six plants per household, if their localities don’t ban personal outdoor grows. Also, landlords maintain the right to ban cultivation or even possession on their property. Growers can possess all the fruits of their harvest.

Social consumption. Localities may allow on-site marijuana consumption at designated businesses.

Public consumption. Not allowed.

Taxation. A 15% excise tax on marijuana products, plus state and local sales taxes, plus a $9.25 an ounce cultivation tax on buds and a $2.75 one on leaves. Also, counties may impose additional taxes, subject to a popular vote.

Regulation. The state agencies empowered to regulate medical marijuana under this year’s three-bill regulation package have their briefs expanded to include non-medical marijuana as well.

Licensing. Provides tiered licensing based on business type and size, but to protect small businesses bars the issuance of the largest tier of cultivation licenses for five years and creates a special licensing tier for “microbusinesses.”

Employee drug testing. Still allowed.

Criminal offenses. Possession of more than an ounce, cultivation of more than six plants, unlicensed sales, and possession for sale are all six-month misdemeanors, reduced from felonies, although they can still be charged as felonies in some cases.

This past weekend, the AUMA picked up the support of Tim Blake, organizer of the Emerald Cup in Santa Rosa, which this year drew a record crow to the annual growers’ competition/trade show.

“You know what, I’m going to endorse this thing,” Blake told activists assembled for a legalization debate.

His endorsement drew a mixed reaction from the crowd, many of whom want to see a more wide open form of legalization. That’s a sentiment that’s shared by some prominent figures in the state’s marijuana community. Dale Gieringer, a ReformCA board member and long-time head of Cal NORML is one of them.

“This is like 60% legalization,” he said. “Some people on the board endorsed it, but I didn’t endorse, and Cal NORML doesn’t endorse it. We’re a consumer organization, and from the standpoint of consumers, the AUMA is the worst drafted one,” he said, ticking off a list of issues.

“Cities can still ban dispensaries, deliveries, and outdoor cultivation,” he noted, “and it makes it illegal to consume publicly. There are a lot of medical marijuana users in San Francisco where the only legal place they can smoke is the street. And it treats vaping like smoking, which is totally outrageous and unjustified in our opinion.”

“These are all major disappointments,” he said. “This was an opportunity for California to move ahead of the rest of the country, but instead they blew it with excessive language. This is 60 pages of text. We’ll be looking at years and years of litigation.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean Cal NORML will oppose it, though, Gieringer said.

“If it ends up being the only thing on the ballot in November, I suspect we would support it,” he conceded.

At this point, that looks extremely likely to be the case. None of the other initiatives are showing any signs that they have the organization or the funding to go out and get the 365,000 valid voter signatures needed to make the ballot.

Gieringer also conceded that passage of the AUMA would be progress.

“If it passes, it will do three valuable things,” he said. “Adults can grow six plants and possess an ounce. Just allowing for personal use is extremely important. The AUMA decreases mandatory felony penalties for cultivation or possession with intent to sell down to misdemeanors in most cases, and that’s important. And it establishes a legal marketplace for adult use.”

The AUMA may not be perfect, but unless Californians are willing to go another election cycle or wait for the legislature to legalize it, this is most likely what they’ll have a chance to vote for.

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Johnny Green


  1. Not all of us were so stupid. About a third voted for it. When it comes down to it, Ohio is a much more conservative state than its status as a “swing state” might have you believe. Once you get out into the country, it’s all red — and Ohio is mostly country. Add to that the fact that a lot of people who were for legalization were (I believe misguidedly) against the law due to the oligopoly it created, and it was pretty much doomed from the start. I do hope you’re wrong about us getting another chance at legalization, but I doubt it myself.

  2. By the way I will up the ante CA voters are a lot smarter than Ohio voters. Those dumbass did not know they would never get a second shot at legalization and the truth is they do not deserve one. Screw Ohio.

  3. CA voters are a little wiser than OH. I know how corporations and chambers of commerce will be heavily investing against legalization not because it has anything to do with production but because the see people as the work force and feel they should own the slave on and off the clock. I hope CA learned a lesson from the last vote. Since now they have gone six years without legalization and CO, WA, OR and AL have surpassed them in terms of business in this sector. Another message corporations saying mutely is throw away the key on your loved ones currently incarcerated. I hope CA learned a lesson as has Ohio because Ohio will never have legal cannabis in any form.

  4. YOU HAVING FUN IS NOT ON THE AGENDA OF MAJOR CORPORATIONS! To them and chambers of commerce you are a work force that should be a their command on and off the clock. Do you really want to live that way. If not be smart legalize you will never have another chance.

  5. This prop is crap. It presumes adults have no right to the privacy of their desires, needs and pleasures and without Big Daddy to monitor our activities, we would all spin out of control and into chaos. In other words, we need a god, anointed by law, to oversee our activities.

    I can back up a truck to BevMo and buy the entire inventory of the store and drive it to my house.

    I can make 200 cases of excellent home brew or home wine and store it in my garage.

    Six plants and one ounce? Really. And I am supposed to genuflect to the god that dictates that, as an adult, I am not capable of managing seven plants in my yard. Or 30?

    California is failing us. Right now in my county in Norcal under the medical regime, I can have 3lbs. It gets put to medical use. But given Jerry’s three new laws, specifically the SB that puts Big Brother in the doctors office, my privilege with my doctor will disappear. The state will be overseeing my doctors activities. Who in their right mind will practice giving medical cards to people who find respite from various diseases in cannabis?

    Sad result for a state that used to lead the nation in social evolution. This is moving backwards and as stated below, will invite hundreds if not thousands of law suits.

    Time to dust off my law degree.

  6. Actually, as a long-time user of vape pens for hash and cannabis, they definitely do give off a strong odor. I’ve been busted by cafe owners for vaping indoors. Funny, though, the guy couldn’t figure out who it was, I pretended to be engrossed in a computer screen while he paced about furious, trying to find the drug war criminal. LOL The other cafe owner walked to where I was, but didn’t single me out, and said, “It smells like weed.” LOL. So, yeah, it can get on people’s nerves who don’t love the exotic smell, like me.

  7. saynotohypocrisy on

    I understand your points. I’d vote for this, it’s letting counties ban outdoor personal grows that is most irritating to me.
    Speaking of which, is anything happening regarding allowing personal gardens in Washington state? Is the law against them being enforced much?

  8. It is entirely different than Responsible Ohio which as we all know, granted a “monopoly” to a few growers. I put “monopoly” in quotes because some stickler will say “(sic)Your a liar! A monopoly means only one!” If this loses it is because Californians don’t want legal cannabis as it is very similar to the law in Colorado, which works quite well. I know, I live there.
    I also know there are so-called libertarians/anarchists/nihilists who believe that taxes are worse than keeping cannabis illegal, or people who will vote against any restriction or regulation of cannabis whatsoever, because like dude, America is gonna vote for a law called “Regulate Cannabis Like Tomatoes.”

    So, what’s your angle on why this law should not pass? You prefer prison time to growing six plants?

  9. This is great news. I’m really tired of the glass-half-empty whiners. – Here’s the crucial point. – All legalization initiatives end up in the same place. Nothing is ever cast in stone. We will continue to refine marijuana policy until it reaches its optimum form – just as we did with alcohol after ending ITS prohibition.

    The important thing is pass AUMA ASAP so we can begin that final refinement stage and soon end up with the best possible marijuana policy – as almost all the states will.

  10. What most of us would call shortcomings are mostly to get the votes. For instance, allowing communities local control is a critical one. The folks re-legalizing alcohol back in the day used the same technique. By empowering communities to say Yes or No to weed shops and growers, you get a lot of people on board who might otherwise organize to oppose it, thinking they don’t want it rammed down their throat.

    Regardless, legalized possession and consumption (within the restrictions) can’t be controlled locally, but the shops can.

    Of course, that almost invariably means no shops in small, rural towns, given they tend to be full of conservative thinkers (i.e. people who are afraid of change). It’s stupid thinking because it enables the underground dealers to continue to flourish (and they’ll usually sell to anyone), but this “hide your head in sand” thinking is common in some areas.

    The small town I live near in WA started off with a moratorium, but now that we’re two years into legal sales, the city council has relented and they’ve authorized a shop to open. The reason? They looked around at other towns that allowed shops and didn’t see it causing problems.

    You just have to give some people a chance to warm up to it. Change can be scary.

  11. I agree, that’s kind of a pointless provision. Those vape pens don’t really put off a noticeable smell and most look identical to e cigs, so I doubt that they’ll even be able to catch anyone vaping cannabis in public.

  12. This initiative is definitely not perfect, but it’s definitely better than the responsible Ohio initiative. Their initiative tried to grant a monopoly on retail cultivation among 10 people and try to cement that in a constitutional amendment. AUMA doesn’t do that, and it actually contains provisions that protect smaller scale growers. I think that this could pass next year and then be improved over time.

  13. saynotohypocrisy on

    Dale Gieringer summed up the shortcomings of this initiative. Are these things included because the financial backers think they are necessary compromises to win, or because they think they are good policy? I’d be interested in knowing.

  14. I would say that if you can use an e-cig walking down the street, you should be able to use a vape pen. How are you going to tell the difference? Seems hard to enforce, and certainly not necessary to do so.

  15. I agree that it’s a good start. Once you have a regulated market, then you have a basis to evolve the process. CO and WA have changed their rules a lot since they passed the voters, mostly for the good, and much more to come. CA will too.

    First rule is to get the non-consuming voters to believe that your proposal will bring the rule of law and regulated control to cannabis. AUMA does that. It’ll be nice to see CA move beyond their prohibitionist dark-side and join the more progressive cannabis states.

  16. Doesn’t sound too bad to me. Different from Colorado, but workable and far better than current laws. If this passes, it might tip the federal scales (assuming someone like Chris Christie isn’t President.)

  17. Closet Warrior on

    Sounds a lot like the situation Ohio was in last month. They should probably take the proposal and vote down the bullshit later on. If not, they just might get passed by and wonder what happened? It’s not completely right but it’s fair.

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